How 1922 Became The Canadian Cannabis Storefront Brand of The Year

"Build a brand that will seamlessly integrates into that community/culture."

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As I look back on the three years I’ve spent working in cannabis — I feel particularly fortunate to have worked in the industry prior to legalization occurring in Canada in 2019.

Working in the “legacy market” certainly had its tradeoffs, such as working for store owners who likely won’t be making Forbes 100 Nicest People In Cannabis list anytime soon, in addition to having to worry about our stores being raided — which would have likely resulted in my being shipped straight back to Ireland.

All that said working in the legacy market allowed me to understand first hand what the cannabis industry could look like from a supply chain standpoint.

During this period of time, each cannabis retailer in British Columbia had the ability to purchase products directly from any number of suppliers, and the major advantage this offered was the ability to secure products that your competitors could not = meaningful differentiation.

Across Canada today (with the exception of Saskatchewan) cannabis retailers each have access to the same products, purchased at the same price points which makes it incredibly difficult for retailers to differentiate themselves, however, despite the challenges many cannabis retailers are succeeding.

For today’s edition of Four PM, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mike Dunn, Co-owner of 1922 which was recently voted the ‘Storefront Brand of The Year Canada 2020’ to understand what’s driving their success in Canada.

Mike Dunn the former Co-Founder of Silversides Communications, and is currently the Co-founder & Managing Director of 1922.

What was the insight that led you to join the cannabis industry?

I would say there were two main drivers.

Firstly, I was personally bored, in need of a new challenge and to be pushed. Having spent 12-years in Telco it was time to spread my wings.

Secondly, Brooke (my wife and co-founder) and I wanted to be a part of something historic, to play a role in deconstructing stigma, and reshape the understanding around cannabis. We decided to name our business for the last year cannabis was legal in Canada and “1922” was born.

1922 has received national recognition as having a highly differentiated customer experience, how do you think about differentiation when each retailer has access to the same products?

National recognition is something we are still uncomfortable with; it was never our intent — for both of us, the objective was always to dive into the layered problems that are associated with cannabis (stigma, knowledge, access) and truly understand them.

In short, we fell in love with problem identification and solving – and then reverse-engineered our planning for the business. It became clearer to us over time the brand we wanted to create/the lane we wanted to own, how we would develop our idea of culture and community/social responsibilities, and those foundations ultimately shaped our operating model/team and environment to attract the customer base we wanted. 

At 1922 we believe we are one of the few national operators that have a tailored/curated menu i.e. of 400 flower SKUs, we carry 40 for customer simplification and for elegant operating execution.

Starting in 2019 and maintaining this continual process, we bought and tested every unit the OCS offered — edibles, flower, pre-rolls, etc and with a collective group from new user to experts we used a rating system and selected the best LP’s and SKU’s we believe are available on the market across all price points.

If we can share any wisdom, the inventory you select is directly correlated to the customers you will attract.  

From a regulatory standpoint, what needs to change for the Canadian cannabis industry to become the best version of itself?  

Conventional wisdom would suggest to do more, faster — I would actually argue against this sentiment.

The cannabis industry is so new that I think we need some patience. Refine and master the basics, listen, learn, anticipate and evolve.

Crawl, walk and then run – as cliché as that sounds. 

What's been the most valuable mistake you've made on your journey in the cannabis industry so far, and what was the lesson learned from this experience?

I wouldn’t say we’ve made mistakes, rather we’ve made BIG BETS — ones that have proved correct over 10 months of operating.

Trust me, at the start, we had our doubts and vulnerabilities on some of these choices. As the entire industry went left, we went right, making continuous decisions that differentiated from others (i.e. massive stores, highly competitive, tourist areas needing 500+ people a day in foot traffic volume for profitability).

Our recommendation to anyone in the industry, or wanting to be a part of the industry, would be to do your due diligence. Be strategic, plan, network, study what others are doing, focus on challenges.

Truly immerse yourself into the industry, the areas and locations that need to be serviced, understand the demo/physiographic of that community, and build a brand that will seamlessly integrates into that community/culture. 

What has you most excited about the future of the cannabis industry?

The future for cannabis in Canada is extremely bright & continuing to have the Cannabis Act fulfilled to reduce grey market transactions should be everyone’s primary objective for the future of the industry.

We are excited for new operators to open to give customers unique and positive experiences to evolve the understanding and acceptance of cannabis.

On the product side, as we start to get more data points on each cannabis category is performing and how existing or new formats start to evolve has us really excited (i.e. pre-rolls going to 0.33g x 10 unit packages).

….and of course, strategically scaling 1922 over 2022/beyond is what has us the most fired up ☺ 


Did you gain value from reading this edition of Four PM?

I recently had the opportunity to make an appearance on “Cannabis Corner”… if you can see past the low quality of the camera I used for this conversation it was an awesome discussion with Jordan Brooks & Clifford Tindall.